Unexpectedly sunny

Yesterday’s wander around Lighthouse Park was unexpectedly sunny and cheery. It’s always nice to be reminded of just how big the trees are, and to enjoy the views from the rocks. No marine life sightings but plenty of bird life including the eagle in the third photo. Find of the day was some harvest brodiaea blooming in the dry grass at Point Atkinson. A couple of hours well spent!

  1. It took me many visits to discover this angle on the lighthouse, but now it’s one of my favourite things to do in the park. And it’s not just the lighthouse; the rocks in the foreground have great colour and shape, even looking like miniature fjords, as if we’re viewing a 3-d relief model. I suppose I have Instagram to thank for encouraging me to seek out this view as I kept seeing others’ photos in my scrolling adventures. Now I just have to spend an evening at this spot to catch the warm light of golden hour.
  2. That tree! For years I assumed this beautifully-shaped tree was a pine – after all, the Latin name for the lodgepole (aka shore) pine is Pinus contorta – but a few visits ago I looked a little closer (which is tricky on account of it being on the edge of a cliff) and found that it was a stubborn little western hemlock. I’ve taken many photos of it over our numerous visits to the park but rarely have I been happy with the result. I’m happy to say that has changed with today’s photo, and I really like this one.
  3. Eagle in a tree, perched at the very top. It was a real treat to get a clear view of it, and a good test of the replacement 55-200 mm lens for our SLRs. What a relief to get well-focused photos again! In a way having a non-functioning telephoto lens for a few months was a useful experiment as it taught me that I do in fact enjoy having access to that extra reach. Even with this lens, though, I still had to crop the photo significantly to create this image.
  4. I was recently reminded of the fact that we’d seen this flower on one of our first ever visits to Lighthouse Park back in June 2005. On that day, the camera totally failed to focus on the flowers; I must have held the camera a little too close. Having seen some photos of this flower on Instagram I was inspired to go look for it again. And yet, as we wandered the trails on the western side of the park, I’d actually forgotten what drew me to the park in the first place, and it was only when Maria pointed out these lovely purple flowers that I even remembered! I guess I was feeling relaxed… Anyway, of course I set about taking as many photos as possible, but in the end couldn’t beat the simplest view of the first flower we found.

Norvan Falls

Norvan Falls on waterfall Wednesday. Not the most spectacular waterfall or hike, but every hike has its season and for Norvan Falls, that’s pretty much now with so much fresh spring growth and a good dose of forest flowers for company. The giant logjam is new since I was last there in 2015. I couldn’t resist including the yellow stream violet seeing as it’s also wildflower Wednesday – it was the only one still blooming!

Getting good photos of Norvan Falls is tricky. There’s often not much water flowing and on a weekend it gets busy so getting a hiker-free view is rare. However, on today’s visit (well, last Saturday’s in reality) I did manage to position myself to get clear views of the falls, either with no one in front of me or mostly hidden by other features.

  1. The falls drop about 10 m into a small pool – since they’re long and thin it’s hard to get them into a square crop, but somehow I managed!
  2. Further downstream the steep sides of the gorge can be seen – it looks quite idyllic from here, and this is the best angle on the area with a few nice boulders in the foreground.
  3. Behind me in the previous photo is this enormous logjam. I’m pretty sure this did not come over the falls, but there’s a drainage/debris chute off to the left that I’ve never explored that I suspect is a more likely source of it. The fallen Douglas fir trunks make for a colourful foreground.
  4. A tiny splash of colour, a yellow stream violet, one of only a few that were still blooming. All of the others along the trail had dropped their petals already. I’m pleasantly surprised how the phone camera focused perfectly on the flower.

Lynn Peak

Nice day to hike up to Lynn Peak. Busier than expected, trail is still as awful as ever, but the forest flowers are beginning to bloom and looked great in the sunshine.

Lynn Peak was Plan B: we wanted a hike with some elevation gain, but didn’t feel like driving very far or getting sunburn in the snow. Our original idea was to hike up to Norvan Falls but that felt like it would take too much time (being about 15 km in length). However, Lynn Peak is always longer than I remember so in the end I think we took a very similar amount of time…!

  1. The view from the Lynn Peak lookout isn’t the best on the North Shore, but it’s nice enough on a sunny day. Downtown Vancouver is mostly hidden so it’s a good thing that Mt Baker was shining brightly to the south-east to give us something pretty to admire. The cliff bands break up the monotonous green on the long flanks of Mt Seymour to lend some interest to an otherwise dull foreground.
  2. The trail up to Lynn Peak is mostly like this: rubble. It’s not fun hiking, which is why I’m so surprised we saw as many people as we did. Thinking about how most people find out about their hikes these days, I should be less surprised as I doubt many of the people we met had read a trail description or hiked it before… Still, I know the trail well enough these days that I can tune out the worst of it and enjoy the sections through the remaining delightful old-growth forest.
  3. Horned tree stump. In a previous photo I called this a “viking tree” but I’ve since learned that vikings didn’t have horned helmets. I’ve renamed it the metal tree \m/. RIP Ronnie James.
  4. Even on crummy trails there’s usually something of interest along the way. This patch of mushrooms caught my eye as we walked back down, nestled in the hollow of a decaying tree. It was great to see them looking so fresh as we’d seen a different patch earlier that were more dried out.
  5. I drove Maria nuts taking photos of coralroot last year so I had to let her continue hiking while I stopped to try and capture them today 🙂 They’re definitely tricky to photograph, though I was pleased to capture this one in the sunshine moments before the sun moved round to the next patch. I expect they’ll start flowering proper this week.
  6. I just couldn’t resist another bunchberry photo, especially as the florets were just starting to develop. It’s been fun watching the various dogwoods flower this year.
  7. The trickster on the search for handouts at the lookout. I waited for the raven to tilt its head before I took the photo to try and catch the sunlight glinting in its eye and I was delighted to capture it at the right time as it tilted its head again a second later. Someone was feeding it bits of a Nanaimo bar, and I can do no more than just shake my head. Of all the foods to offer wildlife, highly processed sugary food is the very worst. I’d disapprove if they were handing out nuts; to feed it a sweet dessert is just asinine. Alas, in a crowd of indifferent onlookers it’s difficult to speak up. I think I did make a partial point though as they left when the feeder was congratulating himself on making a “connection” with the raven. I joked that if he had food then he had a connection. He laughed it off but I think it made the point. Will they do different next time? I doubt it.
  8. Just as we reached the trailhead again I spotted the tall green stems of rein orchids among the giant leaves of skunk cabbage in a marshy area. To my surprise the camera on the phone focused beautifully on the flowers of the orchid, and I’m really pleased with this photo. It was a delight to see these flowers again, and to be able to photograph them without being set upon my countless mosquitoes…!

All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon of hiking.

The View from my Desk

The View from My Desk is the title of my GitHub-based website, which is derived from the personal website I had during my various post-docs. My last two jobs haven’t permitted personal websites; hence the move to GitHub for my static site and to WordPress for writing blog posts. The GitHub site is not updated any more but I can’t bear to part with it as it represents the current endpoint for a set of webpages I started in 1997.

I figure that while sitting at my desk I should have something nice to look at, even if I don’t have much of a view, so I like to put a few nice views on my monitors.

1. Cheery desktop wallpapers on the greyest of grey days

No one should be surprised that I plastered my three-monitor setup with photos of glacier lilies… Sometimes I wonder if it’s really worth using nice photos as a screen backdrop given that I then proceed to fill the available space with a variety of applications. But overall I think yes – it allows a bit of workspace personalization (without putting thumbtacks in the wall) and is a welcome sight for those moments when you minimize every window.

You may have noticed the mouse on the left; I’m not left-handed but I hate having to move my hand so far to reach a mouse on the right (and besides, my coffee mug is there!) so I’ve gradually taught myself to be a partial leftie. 🙂 It’s good enough for many tasks, though if I need fine control I’ll switch back to using my right hand.

2. Not a bad view from my desk this afternoon

One of the things I liked about this job was that if I needed a quick fix of mountains, I just had to stand up and look over my monitors. Provided the blinds were open, of course (programmers really do like to work in dim light), and it wasn’t raining…

Local mountains

I’m getting near the end of all my remaining unblogged Instagram photos for Throwback-Thursday and it’s getting harder to come up with themed posts. In the absence of any other connection, here’s a couple of winter-time photos of and/or from the North Shore mountains.

1. Crown Mountain in its winter coat.

Crown Mountain is always a stunning sight in the winter; it has that archetypal jagged mountain profile regardless of the angle of view. I think I’ve taken more photos of Crown Mountain than any other single peak, mostly because we can see it from our apartment. This day we were out for a walk in Stanley Park and the clouds hung low in the Capilano River valley. This worked in my favour as it reduced the amount of featureless greenery that would otherwise have made up some fraction of the photo. Instead, the photo is neatly divided into four: forest, cloud, mountain, and sky. It’s not as even a division as my eye would like but nature is rarely that accommodating.

2. Throwback-Thursday to one year ago today – a sunny hike up Mt Seymour with my friend Steve.

I have Steve to thank for founding Wanderung which more-or-less single-handedly made our settling-in period in Vancouver so much easier and enjoyable. We’ve met many of our friends through the hiking group, and have been to some incredible places in BC as a result. To my surprise, I’m now helping run the society and mailing list, and have been putting out a short newsletter every week for nearly 7 years. How time flies!

The first time I visited Mt Seymour was a snowshoeing trip (coincidentally, organized by Steve), way back in January 2005 and it’s one of my favourite winter destinations with its superb views in all directions. As an example, the mountain on the horizon in this photo is Mt Garibaldi some 50 km to the north. We didn’t need snowshoes on this day as the snow was well compacted, though hats were definitely a wise move – the summit post thought so too!

VanCity Views IV

1. Snowline. The North Shore mountains looking pretty this morning.

The morning after a chilly rainy night shows up the lovely snowline across the flanks of Crown and Grouse Mountains. I took this photo from the roof of the Mountain Equipment Coop building on Broadway. I didn’t notice it at the time, but I really like how the snowline angles upwards as it gets nearer to the water, perhaps the air stayed cooler in the Capilano valley?

2. Winter sunset

I love seeing this boundary between night and day: the sun has set on the city but the mountain tops are still bathed in lovely warm light. Such a contrast compared with the previous photo! I’d rather be up in the mountains in this light – watching the snow change colour is amazing – but I’ll settle for a view over the water and the city.

Here, along the foreshore just west of Kits Pool, is one of my favourite spots to catch the sunset in the winter with its unobstructed view across English Bay and the peaks of Crown and Grouse Mountains, Mt Fromme, and the ridgeline of Mt Seymour beyond.

3. Morning view on day 3 of my Walk To Work Week 🙂

At the time I took this photo I was working about 4.5 km from home. While it was an easy bike ride, I’m not a fan of riding in the winter, so I thought I’d try walking it. To my surprise I found myself really enjoying the walk (on dry days) and could make it door-to-door in about 45 minutes. There’s a tiny park along the way called Choklit Park – and yes, the name is associated with chocolate – with a nice view over towards the high-rises of Yaletown and the mountains beyond. Now if only I had the Photoshop skills to remove that straggly little branch in the top right corner…

4. I’m not a morning person but I love mornings – good morning from a frosty Kits Beach

I remember taking a photo of Kits Beach covered in frost way back in 2009 and wanted to repeat that shot. It took until early 2016 for that to happen! Things I like about this photo include the shape of the beach, which is close to a classic “S” curve, the strip of sand forming a pathway between the silvery-blue water and frost, and the mist behind the city high-rises. It’s a chillier-looking photo than my earlier attempt – I guess I must have sooner after sunrise than in 2009 which had some nice early-morning sunshine lighting up the frost.

So with that I think I’m caught up on my backlog of miscellaneous Vancouver shots for now. I wonder what next week’s Throwback Thursday has in store?

VanCity Views II

Part II of a variety of Vancouver views and vistas.

1. Vancouver on a beautiful, chilly November morning

How can you resist taking such a photo? So calm, so still. So just take the photo and get on to work!

2. It’s all a matter of perspective

I’m a big fan of perspective in photographs (and art in general) and I liked this view underneath the Cambie Street Bridge looking over towards Cooper’s Park in Yaletown. It’s not the most exciting photo but I thought the light was good enough to capture the scene. I would have liked the tide to have been higher to cover up some more of the untidy rocks and bridge the reflections on the pillars closer together. I think that would have been more effective. Maybe someday I’ll repeat it.

3. Vancity. Nuff said.

Another day cycling in to work. I was stopped at the traffic lights at 10th and Cambie and just liked the scene to my left: the Vancity sign and mountains on the horizon. I’ve just noticed that this photo is not level. Oops – that’s going to bug me for eternity…

4. Stoned

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A bit of a silly shot: I spotted this kinda spaced-out looking face on the rock as we were walking the seawall between English Bay and Stanley Park. I was never happy with the colour cast in this photo, though I think I posted it before I had tried out Instagram’s own editing features. It’s also not the kind of photo I normally take but then that’s partly why I started my Instagram account in the first place as somewhere to post odds and ends kind of photos. It’s since evolved way beyond that and I probably take it far too seriously now!

5. After the rain. Next up, the cold…

I remember the days leading up to this photo when it absolutely poured with rain. Cold, cold mid-winter rain. Even the short walk from the bus stop to the office was enough to get me soaked. But then the skies cleared and the temperature dropped further. I longed for a zoom lens for this shot, but in the end I quite like the overhanging tree acting as a frame for the main subject – the snowy mountains of course!

Lions Week

A brief encounter of the nebulous and mountainous kind last Saturday inspired a week’s worth of photos of the Lions, a distinctive pair of peaks visible from downtown Vancouver and many places around. Originally named the Twin Sisters by local First Nations people, westerners re-named them the Lions, because – and even Chief Joe Capilano admitted – they looked like the lions at the base of Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square, London.

Getting to them requires a tough hike in from a couple of directions – both of which we’ve tried now, first in 2005 at the end of our first real summer of hiking in BC. Attaining the summit of the West Lion is possible, though requires a head for heights and scrambling experience; the East Lion is in the Capilano watershed and officially off limits to the public.

However the best view is from other nearby peaks instead, or from further afield. Here I give 7 examples of the various views of the Lions from different vantage points on the North Shore and beyond that I hope capture some of the essence of these iconic mountains.

  1. A fleeting glimpse of the West Lion through the clouds to the north, Harvey and Brunswick barely visible if you know where to look. Behind us lay blue sky and sunshine but this was the view that held our attention.

    The photo that got me thinking; we’d just plodded our way up to the top of Hollyburn in glorious sunshine but could see the thick grey clouds to the north. I thought that we’d have no view at all so I was really pleased to see that the Lions were playing peek-a-boo with the clouds. Our camera/lens played up for some of the photos where the peaks were more clearly visible, but at least this one turned out well. The very tip of the East Lion is barely visible through the clouds.

  2. After posting yesterday’s photo I found myself browsing our collection of Lions photos. I enjoyed rediscovering them so much that I decided to make this week an impromptu Lions week 🏔 Here’s the view from the Cleveland dam taken a few winters ago. From this angle it’s easy to see how they were given their original name of the Twin Sisters.

    After I wrote the caption for this photo, I also realized that it’s easy to understand why early western visitors saw them as lions, particularly for the West Lion with its back and haunches pointing to the left in this view. The story of how they were originally called the Twin Sisters is described in Pauline Johnson’s book, “Legends of Vancouver” which is well worth reading by all residents on the area. Also worth reading are some of the early expeditions to climb the peaks. One such article from the 1920s (I think) describes a multi-day trip to those peaks, following Capilano River and then Sisters Creek. Hard to believe what an effort it once was to reach such nearby mountains!

  3. After yesterday’s classic view of the Lions from Vancouver, I thought it’d be fun to see the view from a totally different angle. This photo was taken near Seed Peak in Pinecone-Burke provincial park, about 33 km northwest of the Lions, the distinctive twin summits clearly recognizable, despite Mt Harvey’s attempts to confuse matters!

    This view was a complete surprise: we were on our way up (or down – can’t remember now) Seed Peak at the northern end of Pinecone-Burke provincial park when, as I often do, I scanned the mountain vista in search of familiar peaks. The twin peaks caught my eye like a pair of distant bunny ears. At first the similar-looking peak to the right puzzled me, but then I realized it was Mt Harvey, which does look a bit like one of the Lions from this – and the opposite – angle.

  4. Mt Seymour is a great hike/snowshoe and gives a unique side-on view of the Lions – they’re almost unrecognizable from this angle and it takes a moment or two of looking to realize what you’re seeing.

    It’s easy to miss the Lions completely from the Mt Seymour trail as they are seen almost side-on and appear as a just another peak along the ridgeline of the Howe Sound peaks. At least in winter there is some contrast between the snow and the rock; in summer the peaks tend to merge with their surroundings. It took a fairly long telephoto lens to get this shot, I think equivalent to about 300 mm in 35-mm terms.

  5. Today’s view of the Lions (well, only the West Lion) comes from a New Year’s Eve snowshoe trip to Mt Strachan back in 2010. We reached the summit only a few minutes before sunset after a hard slog up Christmas gully. We’re glad we made it in time because the light was just beautiful. One of my all-time favourite mountain sunsets!

    Oh what a trip this was! We set off under bluebird skies just after lunch and slogged our way up the gully barely in time to catch sunset. And what a sunset it was: the snow around us turned from white to cream, to yellow, then orange, and finally pink before returning to white as the sun dropped below the horizon. It was a stunning sunset, and over all too soon. All the while we admired the surrounding peaks, though none more so than the Lions. Our descent in the twilight and then darkness was a lot of fun and a good exercise in navigation and reading the terrain.

  6. If you’ve been following my series on the Lions then today’s photo probably won’t come as a surprise. Continuing working my way around the Lions, this view is from the top of Brunswick Mountain looking south towards those well-known twin outlines, Vancouver lost in the haze beyond. But what a great day to be in that little floatplane!

    Out of the frame to the left in the previous photo is Brunswick Mountain, the tallest mountain in the immediate vicinity of Vancouver, approaching 1800 m in height. It’s a favourite of many hikers owing to its superlative summit experience involving some fun scrambling and exceptional views. The downside is the unending slog to get there.

    But those views… And this view of the Lions is particularly good, though the light is rarely good enough to get a decent photo. That would take camping out at or near the summit, which is something to bear in mind for a future trip. As we were enjoying the scene, we heard a floatplane and looked round to see one flying a couple of hundred metres below us, cruising the western slopes of the Howe Sound peaks. I immediately knew where it would most likely head next and trained the camera on the Lions. Sure enough, the plane flew right by them. That’s a flight I’ll have to take one of these days.

  7. Drawing my Lions week to a close is the view seen by many tourists in Vancouver from the seawall near Canada Place and the convention centre. And yes, I did wait until that floatplane flew into the frame 🙂

    Finally I come back to the city. Last Friday morning I was downtown for a conference and decided to take advantage of the gorgeous morning to walk around the convention centre. It’s been a while since I’ve walked there and was pleasantly surprised to see the subjects of this week’s series of photos staring me in the face, gleaming white against the blue morning sky.

    Naturally I felt compelled to capture them, though given their distance, how little of them is visible, and the fact that I had only a modest zoom on my camera meant I felt my initial photos were lacking. However, as I watched a floatplane take off and bank left past the Lions I realized how I could add a little more interest to my photo. The next plane lined up to take off and I waited for it to turn towards the west and fly past the Lions. Alas it flew much higher than the previous plane, but an obliging bird decided to fly past about mid-way between the aircraft and the Lions. It wasn’t quite the shot I had in mind, but it was definitely good enough for me.

And so concludes a week of photos of the Lions. It’s been fun for me to look back through some of our older photos to find these views, and it’s re-planted the idea back in my head of putting in a little more effort to capture them again. Given the number of photos we’ve amassed over the past decade and more, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that there are a few more mountains that could be turned into a themed week of posts. Watch this space….!

City sights on a sunny Sunday

City sights on a snowy sunny Sunday – mountains, birds, the sea, the city, snow, ice, and signs of spring. Sometimes I still have to pinch myself to believe that I live here.

Winter came to the city last night, and to everyone’s surprise, the clouds parted and we were treated to a gorgeous sunny day. Maria and I wandered out for some fresh air, heading down to the beach before grabbing a hot chocolate and walking home for lunch. And a lovely picturesque walk it was too!

1) The beach between Tatlow Park and Trafalgar Street has a nice tidal shelf with a few little raised rocks. This seagull was perfectly placed with the Vancouver skyline behind it, with the peaks of Mt Seymour and the Fannin Range forming the horizon.

2) I love this view of Kits Beach, especially when the tide is out a little like today. The ripples of the incoming waves add some lovely foreground interest – spot the seagull down on the beach too!

3) A couple of the streets offer a great view of Crown Mountain. I liked this one showing the street scene with the mountain as an imposing backdrop. The original version of this image (in a vertical 3:2 ratio) looks much better though. The square crop loses too much for my liking, and I wouldn’t post it alone in this format, but it works well enough for a multi-photo post.

4) I found some witch hazel still in bloom! Yay! This tree is the same one I photographed last year, and it’s a lovely hybrid tree with a mixture of yellow and red “petals”. Most are just one colour of the other, but this one blends the two into its own little spectrum.

5) I was hoping to find a scene like this: a dot of last night’s snow perched on top of some flowers. And with the blue sky behind, how could I resist?

6) Possibly the closest witch hazel tree to home, I hadn’t noticed this one before but it was a gorgeous pure yellow complete with a little icy hat!

Aurora

The aurora came to visit last night. Not as intense as I’d hoped but always a treat to see it. If nothing else, spending an hour on the beach on a calm, peaceful night was very relaxing, though not conducive to a productive day of work….

This photo so nearly didn’t happen. I knew there was a chance of seeing the Northern Lights last night, but when the time came to think about going somewhere to get photos, I was seriously considering just crawling into bed instead. But these chances don’t come around that often so off we went down to the beach again, to the same spot where we watched them back in May. The water was just as calm again, allowing for great reflections.

But ultimately I’m disappointed in the photos. The lights from the city were just too bright and show up so strongly in the photos, the brightest of them resulting in halos or showing up internal reflections in the lens. Plus I feel like I shot too wide – the aurora just looks like a little green line near the bottom of the frame. And I’m not convinced I’ve got my processing right either. However, I’ve since explored more processing options and found a way to make the photo more pleasing to my eye – that version is on Flickr as Instagram doesn’t support replacements (and I’m not going to simply repost a different version of the same image).

Aurora, 28 Sep 2017

So here’s to the next time we get chance to see the aurora in Vancouver, and perhaps I’ll be in a position to drive out of town to admire it!